The ensemble cast ends up having a lot more to do in the episodes following the first, which only underscores the reality that Elgort is the odd man out. It’s not just that Elgort’s performance is weak compared to the rest of the set, although that can’t be ignored. In the excellent “West Side Story,” Elgort’s flatness as a performer seemed to suit the bland, romeo-romantic archetype he embodied. (And in the brawny action-comedy “Baby Driver,” Elgort was well used by writer/director Edgar Wright as more a vessel for propulsive action than emotion or deep thought.)

But in “Tokyo Vice,” Jake Adelstein is supposedly both astute enough to spot a grander conspiracy that goes beyond even a series of mysterious deaths that most Japanese cops refuse to explore as murders ( even in the case of one where a man was killed). clearly stabbed), and yet naïve enough to realize too late that his investigation could create harrowing collateral damage. In short, Jake is meant to be a fairly three-dimensional character, but one that reads a lot less due to his portrayer. It shouldn’t be so nice to see Jake, in a mid-season episode, getting a little beat up during a martial arts lesson. And yet, here we are.

If there’s any real strength beyond the cast surrounding Elgort in “Tokyo Vice,” it’s inherent in the name of the series. In the five episodes made available, it’s clear how beneficial it was for the cast and crew to make “Tokyo Vice” in Tokyo itself. Even though the show functions as a turn-of-the-21st-century period piece, its setting allows Tokyo — as ancient as the notion — to be a character in a larger story. Right from the start, there’s a general sense of bewilderment among the other up-and-coming reporters at Jake’s store, as well as his supervisor (Rinko Kikuchi), as to why he left America, but it’s very easy to tell. understand why the expat fell in love with Tokyo’s striking and unique geography and cultural climate. Michael Mann along with the other two directors, Hikari and Josef Kubota Wladkya, who helm the other four episodes, all bring Tokyo to life in such a captivating way that it’s often as enjoyable to watch as it is to get involved. in the story told.

Frankly, this is both encouraging and discouraging. ‘Tokyo Vice’ is only HBO Max’s latest original series, but seems a little less likely to catch the zeitgeist like ‘The Flight Attendant’ or ‘Hacks’, in part because it looks so much more compelling. than what is on screen. So many of the story arcs in “Tokyo Vice,” once they’re really teased after the premiere time, hint at something bigger and more dramatically all-encompassing. But each time the series returns to Jake as a character – even if we get hints of how he shirks his responsibilities at home – it reveals his major flaws, especially since so many Tokyo natives encountered by Jake are more than willing to help him with very little reason why. “Tokyo Vice” has its moments, and having Michael Mann directing the first episode is a real ace in the hole. But that’s kind of the best stuff this show has to offer.

“Tokyo Vice” premieres on HBO Max on April 7, 2022.